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Fellini In Photography: Hyperreality In Photographs By David Lachapelle


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David LaChapelle has been referred to as Fellini in photography, and his portrait, stage and video work has been spoken of as iconic pop culture archetypes of the 21st century. LaChapelle is inspired by a variety of sources and topics, from art history to pornography and religion. He is known around the world for his ability to combine a unique hyper-realistic aesthetic with deep social messages.

David LaChapelle was born in Connecticut in 1963. At the age of 15 he moved to New York, worked as a busboy at the Studio 54 nightclub and was looking for his way into the world of photography. Andy Warhol noticed his work at the exhibition and invited the 17-year-old LaChapelle to take the position of photographer for Interview magazine, where he himself was an editor. The king of pop art gave extremely useful advice to a young talent: "Do whatever you want. Just make sure everyone looks good."

A popular tradition in portrait photography is that the photographer attempts to reveal the real person behind the attributes of the celebrity. LaChapelle is more interested in the attributes themselves. Moreover, he, like no one else, understands the modern nature of fame. The most popular musicians visited LaChapelle's lens, for many he created album covers, and for some he even shot video clips. The video for the song "Natural Blues" by Moby won the MTV Europe Music Awards as "Best Video of the Year" in 2000.

Commercial photography remained an important area of activity for him for many years. Part of LaChapelle's success in advertising is due to the fact that he often included in the plot metaphors with moral and religious motives or recognizable elements from the works of great masters, alien to the world of magazine advertising and modern photography.

Interest in religion was embodied in one of the most significant photo series of the author - "Jesus Is My Homeboy" (Jesus Is My Homeboy). In it, he wonders who Jesus would hang out with if he came back. According to the photographer, these would not be aristocrats and billionaires, but pimps, prostitutes and gangsters. It was in such a company that LaChapelle captured the Messiah. "I have long been interested in the study of Christian theology and equally intrigued by Buddhist philosophy. I am fascinated by the idea that in the end both heaven and hell are right here on Earth," LaChapelle shares.

Among the dozens of photographic projects by David LaChapelle, the least typical for the author seems to be "Memories in America" (Recollections in America, 2006). Having bought photographs of family gatherings in America in the 1970s and 1980s, he supplemented them with objects and people that have nothing to do with the original images. Flags, firearms, slogans and other ominous signs of American culture appeared in the reimagined images.

Manic perfectionism and workaholism undermined the mental health of the photographer. LaChapelle moved to a farm in the middle of the jungle in Hawaii. The thought of never having to work for pop stars and magazines seemed like a lifesaver. The Lavazza 2021 calendar looks very "Hawaiian" in his performance. "Accept the fact that we are part of this beautiful world, and not its center," the author now tells the viewer. He calls himself "the old man Moses of photography", giving advice to young interns at the studio.

"Everyone has their own path, but remember, it's not about what you're going to get from becoming an artist, it's about what you're going to give in doing so. The mark you are going to leave in this world," LaChapelle says. "When I create an image, I hope that it will attract, inspire and connect with the beholder. One of the most beautiful aspects of art is the ability to connect with people through your work." You can be attracted and inspired by David LaChapelle on the photographer's personal website.